Physical punishment across generations: Factors associated with continuity and change in subsequent generations

by Roetzel, Amy Cassandra, Ph.D., THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, 2008, 183 pages; 3344361


This study examined as risk and protective factors which may promote or deter physical punishment use across generations. This study used self-report information from parents (N = 211) who had a child between the ages of 2-6. Additionally, the participating parents were also asked if they would like to invite one of their parents (e.g., the grandparent) to participate. Grandparents (N = 65) completed the same questionnaires as their adult child, though grandparents were asked to reflect upon when they were parenting the adult child.

Four risk factors promoting physical punishment were examined: childhood histories of physical punishment, favorable attitudes towards physical punishment, feeling of anger and stress. As expected, parents' childhood physical punishment, high feeling of anger and stress were associated with parents using physical punishment techniques with their own children. This study also investigated the salience of such risk factors in promoting physical punishment to continue, above the influence of receiving physical punishment as a child. Parents' current favorable attitudes towards physical punishment predicted their use of physical discipline with their children, even after controlling for childhood histories of being physically punished. When parents' childhood experiences of physical punishment and feelings of anger were considered together, parents' childhood experiences significantly predicted using physical punishment; feelings of anger were marginally related to physical punishment practices. Similar results were found when parents' childhood experiences and feelings of stress were considered together.

Additionally, four risk factors deterring physical punishment were examined: feelings of resentment about childhood experiences of physical punishment, effective anger regulation and stress coping techniques. Parents who were spanked frequently as a child, but had low feelings of resentment about being spanked were at greater risk of using physical punishment on their child, compared to parents who were spanked frequently, but had higher feelings of resentment. Parents' abilities to regulate their feeling of anger and cope with stress were not associated with parents less use of physical punishment.

Finally, grandparents' and parents' reports of physical punishment use were different, with parents using less physical punishment on their child than what they experienced as a child.

AdviserDeborah Jacobvitz
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsDevelopmental psychology
Publication Number3344361

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